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Restaurant Reviews, Recipes, Food, Eat and Drink News, Food, Eat and Drink Events, Discussion Forums
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Waiter!! There's a fly in my soup!

February 2002

Research has shown that over 38% of respondents would not complain in a restaurant if they thought the food or service was poor!

Unhappy with your Meal? How to Complain

We at, by nature of our calling, sometimes come up against situations where things aren’t quite right.
Now, we’re just normal people, and we can get just as perplexed when it comes to complaining. With this in mind, we thought we’d do some research, and perhaps spark some debate.

What did we find?

First: everyone knows how to complain – in theory.

It’s simple, isn’t it? Well, as with most things, it is if you know how.

It is important to complain immediately, not at the end of the meal. Most restaurants will try hard to put things right. Don't be shy - you're paying for a meal to be cooked properly and to be waited on efficiently and politely, nothing should spoil your enjoyment.

Don't wait to see if things improve. If there is already something wrong, something better later will not put the first thing right.

Explain politely to the waiter what you want - "My dish is cold, and my partner's dish hasn't arrived yet. We're running out of time, so can you please try to get both dishes here quickly?", or "Waiter, I ordered Haddock, and you've brought me Plaice, can you please take this away and tell me how long the Haddock will take?"

Do not be put off by "Stonewalling". If you have a complaint, be patient, but be resolute. If the waiter suggests that you are mistaken, or refuses to accomodate youre request, ask, politely,  to speak to the manager.

If all else fails, you have the option to refuse to pay the bill. This perhaps needs a little more cause for complaint and resolution to be satisfied, so I'd like to recommend that you check out the site's say on the matter now, before you ever have to rely on it - it's difficult to check up on your rights when you're actually in the restaurant!!

Second: Most of us have deep-seated fears about complaining.

Apocryphal stories about what a chef or waiter will do to your meal after you’ve complained probably have little or no basis in fact. Your complaint is not an attack on a person, it is a polite pointing out that something went wrong – no big fuss, no screaming and shouting, just “Waiter, this dish is too salty for my taste, can you replace it with one without so much salt, please?” I witnessed just such an exchange in a restaurant in London a few months back – the waiter immediately took the offending dish and asked what Madam would like in its place. No fuss, no trauma.

Third: Restaurateurs (well the good ones) will appreciate the opportunity to put right whatever has gone wrong – and will appreciate constructive criticism as well.

Note that in the example above there was no need for the waiter to apologise for the dish being too salty. Indeed, who is to say what is too salty? The point is that the customer couldn’t eat it, and the restaurateur wants to satisfy his customer: He won’t lose too much on a single dish. Keep the customer happy and they’ll have another drink, and may come back another time. There is the possibility, also, that if sufficiently large numbers of customers complain that there is too much salt in a dish, maybe they will question the chef's taste and "convince him"!!

Fourth: Sometimes your complaint is not valid. Even if you’re sure it is.

You’ve gone into a flash French Restaurant and ordered a well-done steak. It arrives and it’s not how you expected it.

Wise up! Learn about the French way. See the table below…

How you want your steak cooked

How to order

How the steak will be cooked


Bien cuit


Medium rare

A point




Very rare

Very rare



In a “good” French restaurant, it is offensive to think that steak could be done any other way!!! OK, I'm being a little flippant here - but you get my drift?

Fifth: Sometimes, you have a moral (and in some legislations, a legal) obligation to “take things further”

You find a cockroach in your meal. Good grief! With the best will in the world, the management can’t make it up to you – there’s no way you can eat now. What can they possibly do to compensate?

Perhaps it is now up to the ingenuity of the manager to come up with something?

What if you contract food poisoning a couple of days after eating out? How is the restaurant (and future customers) to be protected if they don't know? How are the authorities supposed to investigate and rectify if they're not told?





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